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The hoped-for return to growth, following the financial crisis of 2008, has yet to become established. But despite, or possibly because of this, businesses are spending again on IT.
Across the private and public sectors, technology and its ability to transform business continues to be at the forefront of Board agendas. In times of uncertainty, IT matters again. In 2003 Nicholas Carr published his article, “IT doesn’t matter”, in the Harvard Business Review.
In his article, and in his book, “Does IT matter?”, Carr suggested that IT was an infrastructure technology, in the mould of the railways, or of electrical power.
Over time, these technologies became ubiquitous, and commoditised. IT, he argued, would go the same way. IT would not matter, because it would no longer provide a competitive advantage or differentiation.
But today, IT is far from irrelevant. The combined forces of information and technology are changing the shape of business in a way that could be as significant as the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s.
Whilst cloud computing may be providing the commodity services that Carr predicted, companies now depend on IT to provide the differentiation and innovation critical, not just surviving the economic outlook, but to outperforming their competitors.
Boards and leadership teams are challenged today to secure and advance their business, and to deal with multiple factors such as tighter credit markets, less certain supply chains, more demanding customers, and the need to operate on a global scale.
The recent Deloitte CFO Survey reveals that companies deriving 70% or more of their revenues from outside the UK see expansion as their top priority.
Meanwhile, businesses focused predominantly on the UK market are balancing a more defensive stance with readiness for new growth opportunities. So whether it is to promote growth, be closer to customers or to control costs, IT has a key role to play.
There is a renewed focus on using business transformation projects – underpinned by IT – to outperform the competition through more efficient processes, launching differentiated products or creating innovative new business models. Simply put, there are aspects of technology today that matter more than ever before
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